CFP: 2016 Visual history conference in Mexico City

The Department of Social Sciences and Humanities at Mexico City’s Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana Unidad Iztapalapa has an open calls for submissions for an upcoming conference. The theme for the gathering is “the image as a source for History.” The conference looks to develop interdisciplinary approaches to the study of visual history. The deadline to submit proposals is March 4 and the conference is scheduled to occur from May 16-18.

For more information, we’ve attached the event flyer:


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Research assistant opportunity in Texas oral history

Dear readers, we wanted to let you know that Texas Christian University and its partner institutions are looking for research assistants for an oral history project exploring African American and Latino history in Texas. It’s a paid opportunity that will take place over the summer.

Research  Assistants  (RAs)  will  be assigned to selected  field sites  in  Texas  for  eight  weeks of  full-time  oral  history fieldwork.  With  assistance  from  the project  directors,  RAs  will  contact  gatekeepers,  consultants, and  community  leaders and  then  interview  a wide  range of  activists who contributed  to  the black  and brown freedom  struggles  (broadly  defined) in their  respective cities.  RAs will  also manage and process  digital  video interview  data  to add the project  website.   Work will  begin with a  two-day  training  and workshop at  TCU  on  June  2-3, 2016;  will  continue with  fieldwork  taking  place June 6  to  July  30 (including  a retreat  around  the 4th  of  July);  and  conclude  with a  two-day  wrap-up  meeting  and data processing at TCU on August 1-2, 2016.

For more information, follow the link:

Civil Rights in Black  and  Brown: Oral History  of the  Multiracial  Freedom  Struggle  in Texas

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Embracing Transnationalism and Rethinking Fundamentalisms: A Review of the Borderlands and Frontiers Studies Committee Meeting at the 130th AHA Annual Conference




Embracing Transnationalism and Rethinking Fundamentalisms

A Review of Frontiers of Borderlands History: Gender, Nation, and Empire – The Borderlands and Frontiers Studies Committee Meeting at the 130th AHA Annual Conference, Friday, January 6th in Atlanta, Georgia.

Participants: Elliot Young, Omar S. Valerio-Jiménez, Sonia Hernández, Julia Maria Schiavone Camacho, and Ramón A. Gutiérrez

Borderlands history is the study of a particular region – the U.S.-Mexico borderlands (for most of those attending this panel) – but it also might be more broadly conceived as the study of transnational processes that transcend borders. The chair of the Borderlands and Frontiers Studies Committee Meeting, Elliot Young (Lewis and Clark College) has demonstrated in his first monograph, Caterino Garza’s Revolution on the Texas-Mexico Border (2004), that borderlands history is at once tied to a specific region, but can also transcend it, as his recent monograph, Alien Nation: Chinese Migration in the Americas from the Coolie Era Through WWII (2014) shows. Unfortunately, I missed Elliot Young’s opening remarks due to the trouble I had navigating the vertical maze of the Marriott – one of the three enormous hotels claimed by the AHA last weekend.

I arrived while Omar S. Valerio-Jiménez (University of Texas at San Antonio) was talking about both the necessity and difficulty for borderlands historians to complete research in archives on both sides of the border, something he experienced while researching his monograph, River of Hope: Forging Identity and Nation in the Rio Grande Borderlands (2012). This theme, the importance of transnational archival research, came up in each paper. In fact, two overarching and overlapping questions emerged from this panel discussion. First, how is borderlands history “transnational” and what does “transnational” mean? Second, does borderlands history challenge cultural and national “fundamentalisms” and binaries or reinforce them?

Like Omar Valerio-Jiménez, Sonia Hernández (Texas A&M University) stressed the importance of borderlands historians working in both U.S. and Mexican archives because marginalized peoples often “exist largely” in archives outside of the United States. To demonstrate this point, Hernandez described how, while conducting research in archives in Mexico for an article she recently published, she discovered a network of Anarchist-Syndicalist Mexicanas, Tejanas, and New Yorkers who produced literature about anarcho-syndicalism during this period, yet have not been recognized in the historiography of this movement.[1]

Hernández explained that “narratives change” when scholars take a transnational approach and engage in multinational archival research. One of her concerns about the field of borderlands history is that this transnational approach is not utilized enough by borderlands historians. Despite the fact that the field of U.S.-Mexico borderlands includes two nations (at least), many U.S. borderlands scholars neglect Mexican scholarship as well as the actual history on the Mexican side of the border. In a similar vein, Julia Maria Schiavone Camacho (Sarah Lawrence College) described research that looks not only at Anglo and Mexicans, but also Chinese, as she does in her monograph: Chinese Mexicans: Transpacific Migrations and the Search for a Homeland, 1910-1960 (2012).

 Ramón A. Gutiérrez (University of Chicago), author of the seminal When Jesus Came the Corn Mothers Went Away: Marriage, Sexuality, and Power in New Mexico, 1500-1846 (1991), took the conversation in a provocative direction. Gutiérrez spoke about sexual and gender borderlands, exhorting us to stop being “gender fundamentalists.” He invoked Gloria Anzaldúa’s borderlands theory and her concept of los atravesados: “the squint-eyed, the perverse, the queer, the troublesome, the mongrel, the mulato, the half-breed, the half dead; in short, those who cross over, pass over, or go through the confines of ‘normal.’”[2] Gutiérrez spoke of sexual or genital borderlands and asked that instead of thinking about a strict binary of male/female or genital-based sex that we think about a more complex and fluid sexuality than gender fundamentalism allows. He spoke of how various people have “transvested the body” over time in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, such as José Sarria, an early LGBT activist in San Francisco who regularly dressed in drag, and Latina gangs in northern California who preform a tough masculine identity but include one feminine identifier on their bodies such as painted nails or an earring.[3]

Gutiérrez’s paper provoked what I felt to be one of the most interesting comments from the audience. A lawyer and scholar who studies water rights in the borderlands commented that the promise of borderlands history and methodology is that it “challenges fundamentalisms” – gender fundamentalism as well as other kinds of “fundamentalist” formulations like nation/state and black/white. The work of scholars such as Gloria Anzaldúa, Gutiérrez, and Julia Maria Schiavone Camacho demonstrates this, as their scholarship shows the borderlands to be a place where sexual, gender, and racial boundaries are often transgressed in the formation of intimate relationships.

Elliot Young and Sonia Hernández pressed scholars to use “nationalisms strategically” and to identify what we mean when we invoke the term “transnational.” While stressing the importance of multinational archival research, Young explained that transnationalism is not merely about doing research in two or more distinct national archives and comparing it, but it is also about the kind of questions we ask and methodology we use; about looking at transnational processes and institutions. Hernández explained that it is important to examine how historical processes move back and forth across the border. This conversation brought to mind John McKiernan-González’s Fevered Measures: Public Health and Race at the Texas-Mexico Border, 1848-194, (2012) which demonstrates how the spread of disease and the efforts to contain them are transnational processes that at once disregard borders (in the case of disease) and create them (in the case of multinational, state, and local public health quarantines).

The most important takeaway from Frontiers of Borderlands History: Gender, Nation, and Empire was the importance for borderlands historians to think and work transnationally, to complete multinational archival research, address the history and the historiography on both sides of the border, and look at processes and institutions that cross borders of all kinds. By doing this, we can follow the lead of these scholars and identify the stories of those people and processes that do not fit neatly into one nation, one gender, or one race, and break patterns of fundamentalist thinking.

[1] Sonia Hernández, “Revisiting Mexican(a) Labor History through Feminismo Transfronterista: From Tampico to Texas and Beyond, 1910-1940,” Frontiers 36, no. 3 (2015): 107-136.

[2] Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, second edition (San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, 1999), 25.

[3] Michael R. Gorman, The Empress Is a Man: Stories from the Life of José Sarria (New York: Routledge, 1998) and Norma Mendoza-Denton, Homegirls: Language and Cultural Practice Among Latina Youth Gangs (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2008).

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CFP: Citizenship and migration conference, deadline extended

Dear readers, happy new year! We wanted to let you know that the call for papers deadline has been extended for an upcoming conference on citizenship and territory between Asia and North America during the nineteenth century. The deadline is now January 31, and the conference, titled “Traffic, Territory, Citizenship: Framing the Circulation of People and Goods between Asia and the Americas in the Long 19th Century” will be held at Binghamton University from April 15-16. From the notice:

The symposium will feature two keynote sessions, led by guest senior scholars Madhavi Kale (Bryn Mawr College), a historian of Indian indentured labor migration and Indian domesticity, and Robert Hellyer (Wake Forest University), a historian of international trade in Japan and the global tea trade.

Open to any discipline, the symposium will combine sessions organized around questions drawn from participants’ research with presentations on primary sources. In addition to discussion and feedback on their research, participants will also collectively produce a digitally-annotated bibliography of relevant scholarship and a digital archive of primary sources – both to be published online as an integrated exhibit to spur future research and support teaching on the workshop’s themes.

For more information, follow the link:

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A conversation with Laura Isabel Serna, author of “Making Cinelandia: American Films and Mexican Film Culture Before the Golden Age.”

During the early decades of the 20th century the nation of Mexico entered the modern era through a series of social, political, and economic transformations spurred by the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1920. At the same time, American film companies increasingly sought opportunities to expand their market share by exporting films to exhibitionists in Mexico and Latin America. As government bureaucrats and progressive reformers sought to unify and rebuild the Mexican state, the cinema became a critical site through which the post-revolutionary ideals of modernization, secularism, and ethnic nationalism were promoted.

In Making Cinelandia: American Films and Mexican Film Culture Before the Golden Age (Duke University Press, 2014), Associate Professor of Critical Studies in the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California Laura Isabel Serna vividly describes the process of cultural exchange that played out across the U.S.-Mexico borderlands during this critical period in the development of the modern Mexican state. Focusing on the “agency of Mexican audiences, distributers, cinema owners, and journalists,” Professor Serna narrates the dynamic process of how American film was received, interpreted, and fashioned to meet the needs of Mexican state officials and a “transnational Mexican audience.” Illuminating alternative responses to Mexicana/o “encounters with American mass culture” that did not always result in the acculturation of American values, Dr. Serna argues that movie going promoted a growing sense of Mexican national identity among the emerging diasporic community of transnational Mexican citizens in the post-revolutionary era.

Listen to this conversation in full at New Books in Latino Studies.

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BHIP #6: A Conversation with Dr. Maria Montoya



Join me in welcoming Dr. Maria Montoya to the BHIP as she helps us bring this fantastic year for the Borderlands History Blog to a close. I was fortunate to meet with her at the Western History Association conference in Portland, Oregon. It was a chilly morning in late October when I sat with Professor Montoya to discuss her research, teaching, and new projects. We discussed the convergence of Western and Borderlands history in her work and teaching. Dr. Montoya is currently Associate Professor of History at New York University. She received her M.A. in 1990 and her PhD in 1993 from Yale University.

Dr. Montoya has written extensively on the history of the American West and borderlands. Her first book Translating Property: The Maxwell Land Grant and the Conflict Over Land in the American West, 1840 to 1920 about the various state and capitalist forces that altered the American landscape after 1848 received excellent reviews, she has several articles and chapters in edited volumes including one with Vicki Ruiz and John Chavez, titled “Creating an American Home: Work, Gender and Space in Rockefeller’s Coal Towns.” Her second manuscript titled: Taking Care of American Workers: The Origins of Universal Healthcare in the American West 1900-1950 and a text book Global Americans: A Social and Global History of the United States are both forthcoming. We talked about what inspired her research and her teaching, and how borderlands history and methods have influenced how she engages her scholarship. Continue reading

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Postdoc Search at UC Santa Cruz

There’s a fantastic postdoc opportunity available at UC Santa Cruz. The Chicano Latino Research Center is looking for qualified applicants for a one-year postdoctoral position. It’s open to specialists in all fields in humanities and social sciences with expertise in migration studies. From the job posting:

The successful candidate will be expected to carry out original research, independently or in collaboration with faculty, students, or visiting scholars affiliated with the Chicano Latino Research Center and units with which we collaborate; to participate in seminar activities with faculty, students, and visiting scholars, such as workshops, film screenings, lectures, and colloquia; and to help build a research and teaching tool for scholars, teachers, and other researchers with an interest in migration, mobility, and/or (non-)citizenship, such as a syllabus bank. There are no teaching obligations.

RANK: Postdoctoral Scholar

SALARY: $42,840-$51,615 annually, commensurate with qualifications and experience.

BASIC QUALIFICATIONS: Ph.D. or equivalent foreign degree in the humanities or humanistic social sciences is expected to be completed by July 1, 2016.

POSITION AVAILABLE: September 01, 2016 – August 31, 2017, Ph.D. must be conferred at the time of appointment.

For more information, follow the link. Good luck!

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Position at the University of Arizona Department of Mexican American Studies

The Department of Mexican American Studies (MAS) in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences (SBS) at the University of Arizona invites applications for a tenure-track assistant professor position with demonstrated research interests in one or more of the following areas: Border Studies, Migration Studies, Demography, and Social Justice. Access job posting at:

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Thank you, readers!

We wanted to thank all of you who read the blog for your support. We’ve just passed 1,000 followers on Twitter and are excited about growing even more in the coming year. We look forward to continuing this work and having you along for the journey.

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Review of “Bordertown” Prescreening



Last week I attended an advance screening of Fox’s upcoming animated series Bordertown, co-sponsored by USC El Centro Chicano, the Institute for Diversity & Empowerment at Annenberg, and the USC Annenberg Third Space Initiative. The event featured the showing of two episodes followed by a Q&A with the show’s creator Mark Hentemann, co-writer & cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz, actor Nicholas Gonzalez, and USC Annenberg Professor Josh Kun. Produced by Seth McFarlane, creator of Family Guy, Bordertown is set in the fictitious Mexifornia, a desert town that supposedly blends the characteristics of Arizona, Texas, and California. Bordertown takes a satirical look at cross-cultural interaction and conflict along the U.S.-Mexico border and pulls no punches in pointing out the absurdity of U.S. immigration policy and politics.


(From left to right: Bill Vela, Prof. Josh Kun, Mark Hentemann, Lalo Alcaraz, Nicholas Gonzalez, Maria Jose Plasencia, and Prof. Robert Hernandez)

The first episode, “the engagement,” appears to be the pilot and it will introduce audiences to the families of Bud Buckwald and Ernesto Gonzalez, neighbors in Mexifornia, as the town deals with the passage of an AZ SB 1070-like piece of anti-immigrant legislation. The second episode, entitled “Borderwall” will air around the middle of the first season and as the title implies spoofs the aftermath of constructing an outlandish concrete wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. According to Mark Hentemann, not all episodes will feature political issues and themes, but the show does seek to highlight the social friction emanating from cultural shifts in the country, like the emergence of a minority-majority populace.

Bud Buckwald is Archie Bunker-like in his take on the demographic, cultural, and economic transitions occurring in Bordertown. His family’s roots go back to the town’s establishment and he longs for the good old days when the town reflected his WASP heritage. Bud is disgruntled at work and home. He works for the Border Patrol, has a Mexican American supervisor, and is repeatedly outsmarted by a coyote that looks like the Mexican bandits featured in Warner Bros. 1948 film The Treasure of Sierra Madre. Even more aggravating for Buckwald, is that his immigrant neighbor is doing better than he is economically.

Ernesto Gonzalez is an immigrant from Mexico and the successful owner of a landscaping business. While Buckwald is bitter and nostalgic, Gonzalez is optimistic and sees America as truly, “the land of opportunity.” While Buckwald is rude and condescending in his interactions with his neighbor, Gonzalez is good natured and amicable, either ignoring, or apparently not picking up on Buckwald’s bigotry. Although posing contrasting figures, from the screening of the two episodes, it seems the two form somewhat of a friendship (or mutual tolerance) as the season progresses.

Clearly, the show plays with numerous cultural stereotypes, which according to Alcaraz are intended to shock, offend, and provoke a national dialogue surrounding the absurdity and incipient racism that underlies much of the popular discourse surrounding immigration, border security, the economy, demographic change, and multiculturalism. While not offended, I was certainly surprised by the show’s breakneck pace—rapidly moving from one social/political issue to another—as well as its reliance on cultural caricatures, misogynist representations of hyper-sexualized women, and its light-hearted depiction of border violence and death. In fairness, this is satire, and the show’s creators, writers, and producers certainly understand the seriousness of the topics they cover and feel comedy is the ideal medium to bring audiences together to laugh, think, and discuss these polarizing issues.

Debuting amidst an election year that has already witnessed a flood of anti-immigrant rhetoric ranging from the mildly xenophobic and ethnocentric to the blatantly racist, it seems Bordertown is ideally positioned to attract a lot of attention. Naturally, the true test will come in the weeks following its nationally televised release on Sunday, January 3rd 2016.

The show’s official trailer can be viewed here

Thanks to Adam Goodman for providing the photo of the panelists.

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